Interest in preserving the lives of our children and fostering their individual growth provides a compelling interest in moral life and moral education. 1
Like other noted philosophers, Nel Noddings has contributed to a range of educational scholarship. In particular, the topics of her work revolve around the analysis of caring and its place in ethics, 2 the development of school structures that encourage caring relations, 3 efforts to reconceptualize evil from the standpoint of women, 4 and the use of maternal interests to inform moral education. 5 The wide influence of Noddings' work hinges on her broad conceptions of moral reasoning, values and belief. Moreover, her contributions have come at a critical juncture in contemporary debates over education. Recent trends have bolstered a lively interest in moral life and moral development. However, opportunities to affirm the ethical foundations of teaching and learning are also threatened by politically motivated calls for schools to reassert the narrow and often nostalgic views of a particular group. Against this threatened partisanship, Noddings provides an understanding of ethical belief that is both more rigorous and more inclusive than we would otherwise have today.
Noddings began her professional career as a mathematics teacher after graduating from Montclair State College in New Jersey. Her first teaching position was with a sixth-grade class, but she went on to teach high school mathematics for twelve years. School had played a central role in Noddings' life as a student herself, and her early experiences with caring teachers contributed to a career-long interest in student-teacher relations. Her academic passions, first mathematics and later philosophy, also originated in her admiration for the teachers who taught them, and only afterwards in the demands of the subject matter itself. 6
Nodddings completed her masters degree in mathematics at Rutgers University. She also served as a school and district administrator before continuing her graduate work at Stanford University. After completing her doctoral degree in educational philosophy and theory, Noddings was hired in 1975 to direct the University of Chicago's Laboratory School. As a newly minted philosopher of education, Noddings must have found this position irresistible given the school's past association with John Dewey, the preeminent American pragmatist whose progressive views have and continue to influence Noddings' own work. In 1977, Noddings joined the education faculty at Stanford University where she served in all ranks, including as director of Stanford's teacher education programme and as acting Dean. Noddings received several teaching awards at Stanford, and in 1992 she was appointed to an endowed chair. After retiring from Stanford University, Noddings taught philosophy of education at Teachers College Columbia University until 2000.
Much of Noddings' early research is in mathematics education, a field to which she has contributed throughout her career. Increasingly, however, philosophy and the study of ethics became the centre of her academic work. Her first book, Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education7 contributed to this focus. Noddings begins this book by raising a perennial